U.S.-Taliban talks stretch into unexpected second day as government delegation arrives

Talks in Abu Dhabi between the Taliban, the United States and several other countries stretched into an unexpected second day Tuesday as an Afghan government delegation arrived, raising the prospect that the rebels and the government they are fighting might meet face-to-face for the first time.

Initially the talks between the Taliban emissaries and a team led by U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad as well as officials from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were just set to last one day, but a Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid confirmed the meetings would continue through Tuesday.

The Taliban said Monday they had no plans to meet with members of the Kabul governmen, which it insists is just a puppet of the Americans and too divided internally.

The government team is led by President Ashraf Ghani’s chief of staff, Abdul Salam Rahimi, and according to spokesman Harun Chakhansoori, will “begin proximity dialogue with the Taliban delegation and to prepare for face-to-face meeting between the two sides.”

H added that the government delegation will be in the UAE for some days to come.

During Monday’s talks, the Taliban insisted on the pull out of U.S.-led troops from Afghanistan, according to a statement by Mujahid.

“Talks revolved around the withdrawal of occupation forces from Afghanistan, ending the oppression being carried out by the United States and her allies,” it said.

Taliban officials told the Reuters news agency that also under discussion was a six month cease-fire as well as naming a Taliban representative to a future caretaker government.

The UAE talks come after at least a couple of rounds of meetings between Taliban delegates and U.S. diplomats in Qatar where a group of Taliban negotiators have lived for years.

The meeting in UAE is said to be more inclusive because it involves other nations and at least two new Taliban negotiators who have apparently traveled from Pakistan.

The Taliban is in control of more territory in Afghanistan than at any time after since its fall from power in 2001. Casualties from the war are soaring among government troops, Taliban and civilians as warring sides step their attacks.

Amid a stalemate on the battlefield and as ordinary Americans are questioning the need for a U.S. troops presence after 17 years of war, President Trump assigned Khalilzad in September to resume efforts to engage with the Taliban.

Khalilzad has apparently proposed to Ghani to delay presidential elections slated for April and instead form an interim government while the talks with the Taliban continue and then later hold polls that the Taliban can participate in.

But Ghani’s administration has vehemently rejected the idea. He plans to stand for reelection.

Briefing members of the United Nations Security Council on Monday, U.N. Secretary General’s special representative for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, said the possibility of a negotiated end to the conflict has never been more real in the past 17 years than it is now.

This story was originally published by Washington Post

via USAHint.com

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